According to an anonymous source, the first speaker and chair of the conference was Mr. Alemnew Mokonnen, Organizational Affairs at Regional Government. On October 1-3, Mr. Alemnew, illustrated comparative difference among new liberalism, social liberalism and democratic developmental state. Mr. Alemnew concluded new liberalism is the cause of social crisis in developing countries, like Ethiopia and his government preference to the developmental state was appropriate.
Following Mr. Alemnew’s lecture, on October 1, Endalamaw Aragie Lecturer & Engineer from Civil Engineering Department disclosed his 10-point basic philosophical statement to address political & social issues in Ethiopia and received hand clamping feedback from the audience. Mr. Alemnew Mekonnen who was chairing the conference also welcomed his statement and added some of notions might deserve more refinement. On October 7, during the discussion session, Endalamaw stated that Amharas are Agaws, or vice versa. Mr. Endalamew who described ethnic politics as stupid parts of human behavior, said, “nationality is concerned there is one nation in the region that is namely Amharas whom actually Semitic influenced Agaws.” He stated the definition of Amhara as free people in terms of spiritual liberty, which means baptized people. He made this comment, at Bahir Dar University instructors & management conference, involved more than 1,600 participants. The conference labeled as training was arranged by the central government on government policy and strategy, October 1, through October 10, 2014, which addressed various political and economic issues.
Mr. Agegnew Teshale, former North Gondar Governor and senior official from the regional government who was couching the conference reacted following Endalamaw’s statement. Mr. Agegnew said, there are different views in the definition of Amhara. He mentioned as an example, Professor Mesfin Woldemary’s description that characterizes as religious denomination rather ethnicity. He said, the current definition is designated by the ruling party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDP) and included in the constitute. He added, “you as intellectuals can conduct research on the issue and determined a proper definition on the basis of historical evidence”, then we can debate on it.
Mr. Agegnew also stated the current constitutional rights given to nations and nationalities to address chronic grievance, cause of war and destruction in the previous political systems. His statement inevitably elicited questions regard to Kemants who have made demands for self-rule. The first person to raise Kemant issue at the conference was Mr. Mullu, Lecturer at IOT. Mr. Agegnew replied that Kemant issue was under study by the federal and regional government and would receive a proper response in line with the constitution. He said, many of questions such as existence of the language has been resolved. The language is on the verge of disappearance and need attention; there are 6,000 people who can speak still the language. He stated the problem we have been facing is geographical adjacency, despite Kemants are dominant, like Chilga and Lay Armacho districts, Amhara and Kemants are mixed up in many areas. Some participants said, the issue of geographical adjacency was addressed in the previous study and proved Kemants’ having of territorial contiguous.
October 6-8, Mr. Agegnew’s lecture was mainly focused on three issues, chauvinism, narrow nationalism & religious extremism. His key message was these three trends are dangerous for the continuity of the existing political system. Despite, most of audience who reacted to his lecture disagreed with his views. They claimed the theories of chauvinism and narrow nationalism are the ruling party’s divide and conquer tactic, to continue hang in the power. In contrary, they said, critical challenges to the system are absence of democracy, corruption and lack of good governance in the country.
Statue of Arussi, Oromia
Another hot, sensational issue created verbal confrontation at the conference was the statue erected in Arussi Zone, Oromia Region, in this year. According to the audience, the statue shows whilst Menelik’s soldier cutting a woman’s breast. The participants were extremely angry on the sculpture. First, they dismissed the reliability of the story. Second, they expressed concerns with the statue’s adverse effects in relationships between the Oromo and Amhara people. Some of speakers associated the statue with anti-Amhara sentiments and acts in Oromia Region in March 2014. The speakers insisted that the statue had been politically motivated in order to sow discord between the two people and recommended for rational review for possible dismantlement.
FDRE’s Constitution, Article-39
October 9, the speaker was Mr. Asefa, the senior advisor at Regional Governor’s office. He spoke on FDRE’s constitution. He emphasized the unique provisions of the constitution, specifically, self-determination up to secession, recognition of group and individual rights and public land ownership. On October 8 & 9, the participants also raised the question, why regional naming is attached to one ethnic group, whilst the region has more than one nationalities? He thought it was not the problem. Then, discussion was shifted to Article-39 and a strong controversy was triggered with the article, particularly on the rights of secession. Following questions and suggestions regard the article in group discussion, Mr. Asefa attempted to justify the need for Article 39, whilst dispute erupted, noise from hand clap to stop the speaker overwhelmed the hall. One person uttered procedure, procedure. Mr. Asefa said, “I do not have the procedural problem, let finish my comment. You can reject my view after I finish.” About five-minutes disruption, Dr. Bayle asked the audience to act democratically as the university instructors giving him a chance to express his side. Then, Mr. Asefa got the opportunity to wind up his argument. Next, Asefa gave the audience to comment on his speech; thus, three persons challenged his opinion. Among them were Engineer Endalamew suggested national reconciliation to resolve to existing national problems. Mr. Asefa replied there was no need for reconciliation when there were no quarrelling parties. Again noise reoccurred in rejection to his reply; about 63-people walked out from the hall, and then Asefa was quick to sum up his rhetoric with thanks.
Bahir Dar University Issues
On October 9 & 10, higher education institutes & Bahir Dar University’s governance was main topic. Dr. Bayle Damtie, University’s President talked about the university’s situations when he came to the office 3-years ago. What has been done in the past 3-years and what has not been yet materialized. He presented the summary of the performance report. A major achievement illustrated was the development of student information management systems (SIMS) produced by Institute of Technology staff members, Mr. Asefa & Molla. The application has been in operation for the last 3-years, and it was also sold for other universities 4-million birr per institute. The university is earns 10% of the revenue related to the software. He also reported increment in faculty publications, referring 272 publications appeared in the past year. Prior to Dr. Bayle his Vice President, Dr. Mitku gave a speech on education quality that could be revealed through inputs, processes & outputs.
Dr. Bayle also mentioned support staff, employee grievance related to a new organizational structure and placement. He said, the process is revised by Civil Service, approved by the University Board and competency appraisal was carried out by the university senate members. He stated, the complaint should be primarily related to new positions. He said, nothing was wrong since everybody cannot be assigned in director positions. However, employees in anonymity told a wlka informant that placement was done in violation of white & black written Civil Service directives, and they would appeal to Ministry of Civil Service in Addis Ababa. The employees thought that performance evaluation by the university senate was trickery and it had no authority to evaluate individual performance on behalf of immediate respective supervisors.